Athens, GA - Georgia seniors Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist will battle Stanford’s second-ranked Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs for the NCAA Doubles Championship on Monday.
On Sunday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, the 27th-ranked Bulldog duo defeated UCLA’s ninth-ranked team of Courtney Dolehide and Pamela Montez 7-6(5),6-4. In the other semifinal, the Cardinal tandem advanced with a 7-6(1),6-1 win over Tennessee’s 10th-ranked Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely. Incidentally, Burdette won the 2011 NCAA doubles title with then senior Hillary Barte. The time of Monday’s final has not been set, however it will follow the singles final which features Burdette versus Gibbs at noon. It marks the first time in NCAA Tournament history that the singles finalists will also play for the doubles title.
This will mark the fourth time in Bulldog history that a duo will play for an NCAA doubles title. Marissa Catlin reached the finals with three different teammates, in 1997 with Michelle Anderson, in 1999 with Vanessa Castellano and in 2000 with Lori Grey.
The Gullickson/Gilchrist tandem continued their game plan of keeping it simple; and simple is winning, according to Bulldog head coach Jeff Wallace.
“I thought Nadja’s ground strokes, especially down the line today were amazing, and Chelsey’s serve in that last game to win the match was outstanding,” said Wallace. “They did a real good job as the match started out like it was going to be a lot like Saturday but then they faced some adversity as UCLA responded and grabbed the momentum. However, Nadja and Chelsey played through it, and I was proud of that.”
The match began with a powerful service game from Gilchrist and then Georgia picked up an early break on Dolehide, and Gullickson held for a 3-0 advantage. The Bruins, who entered the match with a 22-4 mark stormed back to take the next five games before Gilchrist showcased another big service game to halt UCLA’s momentum and pick up a hold at 5-4. Then, they broke Dolehide in a game that featured three long rallies and ended with a volley winner from Gilchrist to even the first set at 5-all. The tandems exchanged breaks to send it to a tiebreaker. Gilchrist set the tone with an ace on the first point. A double fault by Dolehide provided a mini-break at 2-0.
Gullickson boomed a couple of serves as the team raced out to a 4-1 lead and eventually had set point at 6-2. The Bruins save three straight before the Bulldogs converted as Dolehide had a return error on a second serve by Gilchrist. Georgia claimed the first set 7-6(5).
“Nadja and I just stayed positive throughout the match,” said Gullickson. “We tried to stay focused on our first serve, returns and especially on game points. We were kind of up and down today, but Nadja kept firing ground strokes.”
In the second set, the Bruins used a fast start this time to build a 3-0 edge including a service break on Gullickson. The Bulldog duo came alive in the fourth game with an easy hold to make it 3-1 and then converted on its fourth break opportunity in the fifth game to close the gap to 3-2. Gullickson’s serve was the difference in the next game as
Georgia evened the second set at 3-3. After Dolehide and Gilchrist held, Georgia got another break on Montez for a 5-4 advantage. Gullickson provided a winner to take the game and carried that energy in to her serve as the Bulldogs cruised to four straight points to claim the set and the match.
“UCLA didn’t miss early in the second set, but we didn’t get worried,” said Gilchrist. “Chelsey was serving really well and that helped. It’s a lot of fun playing here in front of our fans, the crowds have been great.”
The Gullickson/Gilchrist team improves to 24-7 this season and 64-20 in their career together. Gullickson has set the Bulldog mark for most doubles wins in a season as she is now 35-12. Also, she has tied a school record she holds with two former Bulldogs (Naoko Ueshima, 2008; Agata Cioroch, 2002) for most combined victories in a season with 69. Gullickson went 34-9 in singles this year. Gullickson owns the Bulldog record for most combined victories in a career with 230.